Thursday, April 30, 2009

NNew video on Holiness Kadosh for parsha Kedoshin

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Survey: Half of U.S. adults have switched religions
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Vang Lutheran Church, Dunn County, N.D. Seven percent of U.S. adults raised Protestant are now unaffiliated, while 15% have switched to a different Protestant faith.
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Vang Lutheran Church, Dunn County, N.D. Seven percent of U.S. adults raised Protestant are now unaffiliated, while 15% have switched to a different Protestant faith.


Percentage of American adults surveyed about switching religions:

Pew Research Center

Interactive graphic: Compare Americans' answers on their beliefs and practices
Analysis: More drop dogma for spirituality
Map: State-by-state numbers of faithful
Americans freely change or drop religions
Blog, forum and more: Join the conversation on religion, spirituality and ethics

FAITH & REASON the conversation on religion, spirituality and ethics here.

And catch up on interesting news with USA TODAY's
Cathy Lynn Grossman.

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By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
About half of all Americans have switched religions at least once, according to the most in-depth survey on the topic, released Monday.

And that may still be "a conservative estimate," says Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

FAITH & REASON: Does economy affect worship attendance?
AMERICAN RELIGIOUS IDENTIFICATION SURVEY: See how other survey shows change in religions over 2 decades

Pew's new survey is based on re-contacting 2,800 people from its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 35,000 people, released last year. Pew estimated at the time that about 44% of Americans have changed religions. It now says between 47% and 59% have, if you count the millions who once switched but have returned to their childhood faith.

Key findings:
FIND MORE STORIES IN: United States | Massachusetts | Dunn County

•The reasons people give for changing their religion — or leaving religion altogether — differ widely: 71% of Catholics and nearly 60% of Protestants who switched didn't think their spiritual needs were being met, liked another faith more or changed their religious or moral beliefs.

•Most switched early, committing to one faith by age 36. Americans switch religions "often, early and for many different reasons," says John Green, a Pew senior fellow.

•Catholicism has suffered the greatest net loss in the process of religious change: The 10% of U.S. adults who have quit the church vastly outnumber the 2.6% who are incoming Catholics. Two in three who became unaffiliated — and half of those who became Protestant — say they left the Catholic Church because they "stopped believing its teachings." The sexual abuse scandal was a factor for fewer than three in 10 former Catholics.

•Life circumstances, not religious doctrinal differences, prompt most Protestants who switch denominations (Baptist to Methodist, for example). Moving to a new town or marrying someone of a different tradition are the most often-cited reasons, but 36% attributed changes to "likes and dislikes about religious institutions, practices and people."

•Many people who left a religion and now are "unaffiliated" say they did so in part because they see religious people as hypocritical or judgmental, because religious organizations focus too much on rules, or because religious leaders focus too much on power and money.

•Among the 16% of Americans who say they're now not affiliated with any religion, most are former Protestants and Catholics who say they didn't quit in a huff or get lured away by science or by atheist philosophy: About 70% say "they just gradually drifted away" from their childhood religion.

•About 9% return to their childhood religion, saying they tried another religion or two but then went back.

Religious education or youth group participation seemed to make no dent, although people who say they participated frequently in worship services or Mass were less likely to switch.

Green sees no simple answer for retaining members in "a competitive religious marketplace."

The findings "suggest that one thing that might be needed to recruit and keep members is vibrant and vital congregations — a tough thing to create."

The Flux questionaire was conducted in English and Spanish between Oct. 3 and Nov 7. The findings are focused on Catholics, Protestants and the unaffiliated. There were too few converts to or from Mormonism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and other religions to analyze their views, researchers said.

Both the original Religious Landscape Survey, and the new survey are snapshots in time, so it's not possible to tell whether America has always been a bubbling chemistry lab of religious change. But this is the first to spell out the switches in such detail, establishing a baseline to measure future changes, and potential problems.

Lugo says the findings present opportunities for churches, which have seen "a decrease in brand loyalty"— especially among "spiritual but not religious" Americans. "These are folks that are, in some sense, 'catchable.' "

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Parasha Ahrei Mot kedishim

Lag B'Omer May 12


LAG B’OMER: MAY 12, 2009

“And from the day on which you bring the shear (omer) of waver offering – the day after the Sabbath – you shall count off the weeks.” Vayikra 23:15

In the Jewish calendar, Lag B’omer is considered one of the minor festivals. It has no special service and no particular ritual objects are associated with its observance. In fact, many scholars view it as more of a folk festival than a religious observance. The name Lag B’Omer is derived from the Hebrew letters “lamed-gimel” which have the numerical value of 33. Thus Lag B’Omer which falls on the 18th day of Iyar means “33 days in Omer”. In order to understand Lag B’omer, it is first necessary to know a little about the Omer. In Leviticus 23:15, we are instructed to count 49 days from the barley harvest at Pesach to the wheat harvest at Shavuot. This period is known as Omer. In ancient Israel , a omer or sheaf of barley was brought to the Temple as an offering. Two loaves of bread were prepared from this grain and eaten ritually. No one could eat bread of the new harvest until this ceremony was completed.

Although ritual offerings have long since ceased, Omer is still counted, beginning on the second night of Pesach and performed every evening at sunset. A blessing recalling the Biblical injunction is recited, and a prayer for the rebuilding of the Temple .

The period of Omer is also called the Sefirah, is a period of austerity and semi-mourning. The reason for this is has traditionally been attributed to the story that during this time, many disciples of Rabbi Akiva were struck down by a plague while they were engaged in a revolt under Bar Kochba against the Romans. However, there are many scholars who feel that the reason for this austere time goes back much further. Its origins are grounded in the folk custom of agricultural societies which regarded the time preceding the harvest as uncertain. The old was over, the new unknown; so this feeling of suspense and uncertainty expressed itself in curtailment of normal activities.

Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of Omer, is a break in the austerity of the Sefirah.

Several explanations for this day exist. One source says that the plague which decimated Akiva’s students, ceased on this day and a day of celebration was declared. Consequently, Lag B’Omer is also known as the “Scholar’s Festival”. Some writers feel that this festival commemorates a victory of Bar Kochba’s army over the Romans, while another source maintains that it was the occasion of an uprising of the Jews during the first Jewish revolt (66 C.E.).

On Lag B’Omer, Rabbi Akiva’s name appears again and again and although he is not directly connected with the day, his spirit seems to be part of the holiday.

Lag B’Omer was adopted by the Kabbalists of the late Middle Ages as a special holy day. They feel that it is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. This mystic disciple of Rabbi Akiva is said to be buried at Meron, near Safed, so it is customary for a pilgrimage to be made to the site of his tomb. The Hasidim believe that the Rabbi departed this life in joy, so great bonfires are lit and night-long singing and dancing take place. It is also customary to visit the tombs of the other famous rabbis who are buried in this area.

Lag B’Omer is a day of respite from the mourning of theOmer, a day when we recall our history and our teachers, and the bond with our heritage is strengthened.

new Jew

Shalom Rabbi

Just a very quick line to say, I appeared before the Reform Movement Beth Din on Thursday in London, and today I had the great honour of making my first ever Aliyah to the Torah. Yes, today I am a Jew.

This journey, which is only just beginning, is in no small part inspired by your videos on YouTube and the encouraging e-mails you took the time to send me.

As we end the week in which we remembered the six million Jews who perished in the Shoah, and the week the Prime Minister of Iran launched the latest attack against the most peace loving (and persecuted) race on earth, I feel honoured to have joined their number.

Thank you for the work do. Long may you continue.

G-D bless you.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Weddings Spring 2010?

Q: My fiance and I are trying to plan our wedding and we are having some trouble determining whether certain dates are appropriate or not. We are trying to plan for April or May 2010 but we are unsure whether it is acceptable to have a wedding during that time. Are there any Sundays during that time which weddings are allowed?

Passover (Pesach): 30 March 2010 (Tuesday)
Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah): 11 April 2010 (Sunday)
Israel Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron): 18 April 2010 (Sunday)
Israel Independence Day (Yom HaAtzmaut): 19 April 2010 (Monday)
Lag B'Omer: 2 May 2010 (Sunday)
Shavuot: 19 May 2010 (Wednesday)
Tisha B'Av: 20 July 2010 (Tuesday)

First od all, mazel tov!!! Pesah begins March 30. Orthodox and some Conservative won't do any weddings till after Shavuot May 19. Some will do any Sunday after Holocaust commemmoration. April 19. Some will do on lag baomer which is a Sunday that year, May 2. Reform and reconstructionist rabbis may do during any time that period. Up to the rabbi. Sorry its confusing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009


1. If a person were to be in a situation where they could not carry much with them, which Jewish books would you suggest they take with them? (I am finishing school and will have a military obligation. I would appreciate your thoughts about this.)

prayer book, Jewish calendar so you know when the holy days are,

a travel size etz hayim humash so you can follow the weekly Torah reading and commentary

2. As women can of their own choice accept mitzvah usually obligatory upon men, is there a preferred way to do so? Or do you just ‘do it’? just do it-liberal egalitarian recognize no distinctions, more traditionalists say you should accept the chiuv obligations and thn are sinning if you do not observe them, like any male who does not

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ban on kitniyote fading

Orthodox passover rebels do away with Ashkenazic ban on legumes

By Nathan Jeffay, The Forward

Tags: israel news=3Disrael+news>, jewish world.jhtml?tag=3Djewish+world> [


In Tel Aviv, shortly before Passover, David Cohen was mulling over his holi=
day menu. "I'm thinking of making sushi," he said.

His plan reflects more than just growing Israeli enthusiasm for Japanese fo=
od; it reflects a new polarization on one of the most controversial of Pass=
over-related issues - kitniyot.

Cohen, a beer brewer in his 40s, is an Ashkenazic Orthodox Jew, yet he plan=
s to eat a food shunned on Passover by most observant Ashkenazim. Rice - a =
key ingredient in sushi - is not in the biblically banned category of hamet=
z, or leavened cereal grain. Religiously, if not taxonomically, it falls wi=
thin the family of legumes that in Hebrew is known as kitniyot.

Sephardic Jews eat them on Passover, but Ashkenazic rabbis banned them cent=
uries ago because they resemble leavened food when they swell up.

More and more foods have been classified as kitniyot in recent years, as As=
hkenazi rabbinic positions have hardened across a wide expanse of Halacha, =
or traditional religious law. Of late, however, something of a rebellion ha=
s erupted among pockets of Modern Orthodox Jews who have decided to eat kit=

"Why should we uphold a meaningless restriction when the Torah permits us t=
o eat kitniyot?" Rabbi David Bar-Hayim of Jerusalem asked rhetorically in a=
n interview with the Forward. Bar-Hayim made history two years ago by forma=
lly lifting the ban on kitniyot in the Holy Land. His authority is invoked =
among the growing ranks of new kitniyot-eaters like Cohen.

According to some experts on changes in religious law, we are witnessing th=
e beginning of the end for the ban on kitniyot in Israel. "In another gener=
ation, people in Israel won't even know what you are talking about," said R=
abbi Donniel Hartman, co-director of the Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Ins=

For many observant Ashkenazim here, the kitniyot prohibition is a long-stan=
ding pet peeve. "This was a much easier process before I moved to Israel," =
said Michael Davis, a recent British immigrant interviewed while shopping f=
or Passover in a Tel Aviv supermarket.

For most of the year, Israel is the capital of kosher, offering the word?s =
easiest consumer experience for observant Jews. Come Passover, however, man=
y of those same consumers find shopping interminably complex.

Beginning a few days before Passover, Israeli shops overflow with items cer=
tified "kosher for Passover," like those in Diaspora Jewish neighborhoods. =
But in Israel, traditional Ashkenazim must read the fine print on every ite=
m. A growing number of products are labeled ?Suitable for kitniyot-eaters o=

In part, the confusion is caused by manufacturers using kitniyot in ever-mo=
re adventurous Passover products. The other cause is the constantly swellin=
g list of items banned by Orthodox rabbis as kitniyot.

"The attitude in the last few decades has changed and become stricter to th=
e point of absurdity," said kitniyot expert Daniel Sperber, a professor of =
Talmud at Bar Ilan University. Recent additions to the kitniyot list, he sa=
id, include cottonseed oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil and even hemp.

Opponents of the growing list point out that many products now deemed kitni=
yot, like sweet corn and soybeans, were unknown to the medieval sages whom =
today's rabbis claim to follow, and therefore cannot be covered by their pr=

Thanks to the growing stringency, a traditional Ashkenazi in the store wher=
e Davis was shopping would have to avoid such un-legumelike products as che=
wing gum and chocolate spread, along with most cooking sauces.

Bar-Hayim argues that maintaining practices unique to Ashkenazic Jews in Is=
rael is undesirable. By definition, he said, the Jewish state should find J=
ews more "united in their religious practice," not "living here as if they =
are in the old country."

For backing he cited the Shulchan Aruch, the authoritative code of rabbinic=
law, which states that a Jew moving to a new area should adopt the customs=
of the new community rather than cling to the old ones. And since the kitn=
iyot restriction is European and was never widely observed in the Middle Ea=
st, he reasons, it holds no weight in Israel.

His ruling has provoked widespread rabbinic fury. "People have been keeping=
this tradition for over 600 years," former Sephardic chief rabbi Ovadia Yo=
sef said in a lecture last month. "Those who kept it were great people. Wha=
t, we should tell them to give up their traditions?"

To Bar-Hayim, the critics' approach is irrationally attached to the past an=
d is "not halachic," possibly even "anti-halachic." "Just as it is forbidde=
n to allow what is prohibited, it is forbidden to prohibit what is allowed,=
" he said.

The debate runs deep, even dividing some families. Eliyahu Skozylas, a Jeru=
salem software engineer, will be eating kitiyot this Passover for the third=
consecutive year, but his wife refuses. It is, he admits, a "major source =
of tension in our home."

Bar-Hayim's ruling and his reasoning closely echo a 20-year-old halachic ru=
ling by the Israeli Conservative movement. David Golinkin, head of the Cons=
ervative rabbinical college the Schechter Institute, wrote in 1989 that all=
Israelis can eat kitniyot "without fear of transgressing any prohibition."

Some scholars predict that a combination of rabbinic rulings and demographi=
cs will eventually make the kitniyot ban a thing of the past in Israel. "Th=
e classic characteristics of halachic change" are already discernible on th=
e issue, Hartman said. For example, large numbers of Ashkenazim - himself i=
ncluded - draw a fine distinction by eating kitniyot "derivatives" but not =

The "disintegration of the divide between Ashkenazi and Sephardi" will play=
a significant part, Hartman said. Already there is "not a single family in=
the country without a Sephardi member," and Sephardim are more influential=
than ever in national culture. He stressed that this development will be a=
result of Ashkenazic-Sephardic mixing in Israel and will not affect practi=
ce in the Diaspora.

Other experts predict that the kitniyot tradition will endure, preserved by=
a combination of religious traditionalism and multiculturalism. "There's a=
reassertion of ethnic pride, with people feeling it's okay to do things di=
fferently to others and to celebrate diversity," said Bar-Ilan University J=
ewish studies professor Adam Ferziger

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April 3, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Obama Meets Saudi King Abdullah (Reuters)
U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi King Abdullah discussed cooperation on the global economic crisis and joint efforts against terrorism in their first face-to-face talks on Thursday on the sidelines of a G20 summit, the White House said.
See also Saudi King Abdullah, Obama Discuss Arab Initiative, Bilateral Ties (Saudi Gazette)
King Abdullah discussed with U.S. President Obama in London the Arab peace initiative and ways to step up Saudi-U.S. cooperation.


UN Names Jewish Judge to Lead Israel-Gaza Probe (AP)
The UN says former chief prosecutor for war crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Richard Goldstone, a Jewish judge from South Africa, will lead a mission to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza.
The probe was ordered by the Human Rights Council in January and will focus only on Palestinian victims. Israel has refused cooperation with previous council probes, calling them biased.
See also UN Probe Head Called for Gaza War Crimes Investigation (Reuters)
On March 16, sixteen judges and investigators called for a prompt investigation into allegations of war crimes committed in Gaza earlier this year.
In their letter, distributed by rights group Amnesty International, Richard Goldstone and others said they were "shocked to the core" by the events in Gaza and said an independent investigation was needed to adhere to the laws enshrined in the Geneva Conventions on conflict.


Iran, Syria Got Indirect U.S. Nuclear Aid - Siobhan Gorman (Wall Street Journal)
Four countries designated by the U.S. as terrorism sponsors, including Iran and Syria, received $55 million from a U.S.-supported program promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy, according to a report by Congress' Government Accountability Office released Tuesday.
Iran received more than $15 million from 1997 to 2007 under the International Atomic Energy Agency's Technical Cooperation program. An additional $14 million went to Syria, while Sudan and Cuba received more than $11 million each.


Palestinians Firing Chinese-Made Rockets - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
A growing number of Chinese-made rockets are being smuggled into Gaza and fired at Israel.
Supt. Kobi Preger, deputy head of the Israel Police's national bomb disposal laboratory, identified three types of Chinese-made rockets at a press conference Tuesday: "The 107 millimeter rocket, often called a 'Grad,' and two types of 122mm rockets."
One version of the 122mm rocket had a range of 40 km. and had been used by Hamas to target areas such as Yavne, north of Ashdod.
"The rockets are going farther and getting more powerful," he warned.


Israeli Tourist Bookings Hit by Turkish Prime Minister's Criticism (Hurriyet-Turkey)
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's harsh words about Israel have hit Israeli tourism arrivals hard.
The tourism sector has seen cancellations by nearly 10,000 Israeli tourists, as well as 40 flights from Israel to Turkey for the Passover holiday.
"We brought 5,734 Israeli tourists to Turkey in the same period last year," said tour operator Yuksel Aslan, "But there are only 15 bookings from Israel for April right now."
"This year we expect a 70% decline in our income from Israeli tourists," said Ulkay Atmaca, managing director of the Majesty Club Belizia Hotel. "While the world is struggling with the global crisis, we have created our own crisis."


Unmanned Bulldozers to Play Greater Role in IDF - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
The IDF Ground Forces Command plans to double the number of unmanned D9 armored bulldozers in the Engineering Corps after the vehicle provided exceptional results clearing roads of mines and explosive devices during the Gaza operation in January.
The unmanned bulldozer was developed several years ago and was only recently declassified.
The D9 is equipped with cameras that transmit images to the operator, who controls the vehicle with a wireless remote control.
In the event of a communications malfunction the vehicle can be manned and operated like a regular D9.


Israeli "Bionic Nose" Could Detect Cancer, Bombs and Impure Water (Science Daily)
Using molecular techniques in nanotechnology, Prof. Doron Shabat of Tel Aviv University has developed a device to detect microscopic signs of cancer, bombs and impure water that appear in trace amounts too small for conventional detection techniques.
The invention, like a bionic nose, can "sniff out" these trace molecules and amplify them tenfold, making them noticeable.
The prototype is ready, and Shabat plans to use it to "amplify" problems around the world to improve healthcare, safety, and security.


Google Service Developed in Israel Launched - Itai Smuskowitz (Ynet News)
The international Google Suggest service, which was developed by a Google Israel team, was launched in local versions on Wednesday.
The service works by completing words a user types in the search box and offers suggestions in real time.
The team that led the development of the product is headed by Miki Herkovitz, and Dr. Yoel Mark, who heads Google Israel's research and development center in Haifa.


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This invaluable Internet resource documents the recent history of Israel and the Middle East.
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

Clock Ticks for Iran Despite Obama's Offer of Talks - Louis Charbonneau
The U.S. will push for new UN sanctions against Iran later this year if President Obama's effort to improve relations fails to stop Tehran from pursuing its nuclear program. But plans for a fourth round of international sanctions will remain on hold at least until after Iran's presidential elections in June, diplomats said. (Reuters)
See also The U.S.-Iran Meeting that Wasn't - Golnaz Esfandiari and Mehrdad Mirdamadi
Diplomats from the U.S. and Iran sat at the same table during a conference on Afghanistan in The Hague on March 31. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that a meeting took place between (U.S. special representative) Richard Holbrooke and the head of Iran's delegation, Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh. Yet a day after the conference, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qhasghavi said: "There was no official or unofficial meeting or conversation between the representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran and America on the sidelines of the conference." In any case, reports of a "meeting" would contradict Iran's position that they expect concrete steps from Washington - such as lifting sanctions or recovering frozen assets - before Tehran will talk to U.S. officials. (RadioFreeEurope-RadioLiberty)
U.S. to Push for Palestinian Statehood - Sue Pleming
State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Thursday, "We're going to be working hard to see what we can do to move the (peace) process forward. But we're under no illusions. It's not going to be easy....We're going to pursue that two-state solution, because we believe it's in the best interests of all the parties in the region." (Reuters)
Spanish Prosecutors Seek to Shelve Israel Case
Public prosecutors requested Thursday that a Spanish court shelve a complaint against seven top Israeli military figures over a deadly bombing of [a Hamas terrorist commander in] Gaza in 2002, a lawsuit which angered Israel. Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, "there is nothing surprising about the news, as the complaint was groundless and stemmed only from the political aims (of the complainants) and baseless rumors." Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak rejected the complaint as "delirious" and said he would do "everything possible to get the investigation dismissed." Israel's protests embarrassed the Spanish government, which wants to play an active diplomatic role in the Middle East. (AFP)
Sweden Punished for Israel Davis Cup Lockout
The Swedish city of Malmo was banned from hosting Davis Cup matches for five years on Thursday after its decision to stage Sweden's World Group clash with Israel behind closed doors. The Swedes will now be forced to guarantee to the International Tennis Federation that every Davis Cup series in the country will be open to fans. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

Arms Pouring into Gaza - Guy Bechor
Immense quantities of missiles are still pouring into Gaza. Under the guise of a temporary calm, a major military buildup is being undertaken there ahead of the next round of fighting. Meanwhile, Israeli communities are still being bombarded. Iran, the Palestinians, and other elements are very determined to transfer the arms to Gaza and threaten Israel's population centers. The implication of the bombing in Sudan is that our security coordination with Egypt is slim. If the convoy in Sudan was meant to reach Egypt, why would the Egyptians have any problems seizing it, just like the Cypriots seized the arms ship that entered their territory? Apparently, we indeed have no way of counting on the Egyptians on this front. (Ynet News)
Palestinian Factions Suspend Unity Talks Without Agreement - Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas and Fatah negotiators have failed to reach agreement over the formation of a Palestinian unity government, sources close to the two parties said Thursday. Sources said the two sides agreed to meet again next month. A Fatah official in Ramallah told the Jerusalem Post that the Egyptians asked both sides to leave Cairo immediately. "It's a total failure," he said. "We are just wasting our time because Hamas is not going to change." A Hamas official in Gaza said both Hamas and Fatah negotiators had been under immense pressure from their Egyptian hosts to conclude a deal. (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas Policemen in Gaza Doubled as Terrorists
Hamas and human rights organizations often include policemen and other internal security servicemen killed during the Gaza operation in the civilian death toll, though the claim has no factual basis. An in-depth examination of Hamas-associated media shows that many casualties portrayed as policemen were at the same time operatives of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing. The Hamas police published a list of 232 internal security servicemen killed in the operation. There was no clear distinction between internal security servicemen and Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
Study Cites Dramatic Rise in Anti-Semitic Attacks in Europe - Assaf Uni
The number of anti-Semitic incidences in Europe in the first three months of this year exceeds the total number of such occurrences during all of 2008, according to a report issued by the European Jewish Congress. The report cites the reaction to January's IDF operation in Gaza as one of the key triggers of anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish communities in Europe. "Public opinion links Israel with the local Jewish community, which turns us into enemies," said Rony Smolar, the head of the Jewish community in Finland. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


Sudan Convoy Just as Far from Israel as Iran Nuclear Plant - Richard Beeston
It is a widely held conclusion among nuclear experts that Iran now possesses enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb. It would still have to be enriched to weapons grade, but Iran has mastered the technology and has the raw materials. Building a nuclear bomb is now only a matter of time. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has threatened to wipe Israel off the map, has hosted a Holocaust-denying conference, and has stepped up arming and funding Hizbullah and Hamas, the two militant groups responsible for rocket attacks against Israel.
Israel carried out a raid in January on a weapons convoy in Sudan. The aircraft, which were refueled in mid-air, flew 1,750 miles from Israel to Sudan and back. The distance from Israel to Natanz, the uranium enrichment center in Iran, is 900 miles one way. Many Arab states, particularly in the Gulf, are more afraid of a nuclear-armed Iran than Israel is. A military strike that delayed that threat would be welcomed in some Arab capitals. The Israelis know that they would face a huge international outcry. But that happened after the raid on Iraq and many countries later thanked them privately. (Times-UK)
The Iran-Sudan Connection
Iran's then president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, visited Khartoum in 1991, along with no fewer than 157 officials. During the visit, Iran agreed to help train Sudan's version of the Revolutionary Guards, the Popular Defense Forces. To this end Hassan Azda, an Iranian who had been training Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon, was posted to Sudan in 1992.
Iran also helped set up Sudan's fledgling arms industry, now the third-largest in Africa. The missiles that Israel is said to have destroyed in the January raid were probably shipped into Port Sudan via Yemen from Iran. But it is also possible that some of the arms were manufactured in Sudan's own military-industrial complex south of Khartoum. The Iranian defense minister spent four days in Khartoum last year, where he signed another co-operation agreement in the fields of military technology and the exchange of expertise and training. (Economist-UK)
Israeli Unity Government Anchored to Iranian Nuclear Emergency - Meyrav Wurmser
Israel's formation of a national unity government, a common strategy by parliamentary governments in times of war or national emergencies, is a move to gird the Jewish state for an impending crisis involving Iran's nuclear program. Labor Party leader Ehud Barak has decided that Iran's nuclear ambitions confront Israel with a historic crisis so grave that even the peace process is of secondary importance. Netanyahu and Barak, two seasoned former prime ministers, are convinced Israel faces decisions of life or death. The writer is director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute. (Washington Times)
Arab Summit, Iranian Agenda - Jonathan Spyer
The Arab League summit in Doha, Qatar, this week reflected a growing Iranian encroachment on the politics of the Arabic-speaking world, and the divided Arab response to this. The Palestinian cause - the great self-proclaimed moral flagship of Arab politics - is currently the subject of a hostile takeover bid by Iran and its clients. The Iranian-armed and sponsored Hamas enclave in Gaza has successfully suppressed its internal rivals and defended its existence against Israel. There are now in effect two Palestinian national movements. One of them is ideologically strong and hungry, favors Israel's destruction, and is supported by Iran. The other is old and tired, propped up by vast amounts of Western funding. The former is in the process of trying to devour the latter, and may succeed.
One might conclude that Iran is developing into a vast, looming power, about to overshadow the region. But Iran's advances are testimony not to the great strength and vitality of the Tehran regime, but rather to the weakness of Arab states and political cultures. Iran dreams of a bloc of Muslim states led by a nuclear Iran, challenging Israel's existence and American power. But Iran will always suffer from a "legitimacy gap" in the Arab world. It will always be perceived as a foreign, frightening power by many non-Shi'ite Arabs. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Ha'aretz)
See also Arab Summit in Qatar - a Demonstration of Weakness - Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)
Other Issues

For Hizbullah Leader Mughniyah, the Cause of Annihilating Israel Took Precedence
On the first anniversary of the assassination of Hizbullah operations officer 'Imad Mughniyah, the editor of the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, Ibrahim Al-Amin, who is close to Hizbullah, published a comprehensive editorial on Mughniyah's role: After the 2006 Lebanon War, Mughniyah "formulated new plans for the resistance, based on the outcome of the [2006] confrontation and on [his expectations regarding the next] confrontation, which could occur any day. But his operational activities were grounded in the belief, shared by other Hizbullah commanders, that the annihilation of Israel was no longer just a dream that would take decades to realize. [They saw that] it was deal the enemy blows that would neutralize its ability to defend its entity, and to target the [Israeli] home front in a way that would undermine its unity and its strength - all in order to accomplish...the mission of rescuing Palestine and annihilating Israel."
"Palestine always remained a watchword for [Mughniyah] and for his comrades in the Palestinian resistance, who shared his cause. Neither side ever found it difficult to cooperate in order to achieve the common goal, which serves the larger purpose of creating conditions that will bring about the actual annihilation of Israel....The cause of restoring Palestine to its people and annihilating Israel took precedence over everything else." (MEMRI)
Prince Nayef Bids for Saudi Throne - Simon Henderson
On March 27, the official Saudi Press Agency announced that Interior Minister Prince Nayef had been appointed second deputy prime minister. If Nayef eventually becomes king, Saudi Arabia's hesitant steps toward reform will likely stop, and Washington's relations with Riyadh would most likely be rockier than those with the current King Abdullah. Prince Nayef, who controls the kingdom's huge internal security apparatus, most famously suggested that Israel's intelligence service was behind the September 11 attacks on the U.S. in which fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis. Just last week, a month after King Abdullah announced a series of reforms including the appointment of the first female deputy minister, Nayef publicly stated that he saw no need for either elections or women members of parliament. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Democracy in Egypt Appears to Wane - Paul Schemm
Four years ago, the U.S. talked about laboratories for democracy in the Middle East. But now Egypt seems to be going backward with President Hosni Mubarak's government solidifying its hold on the levers of power. Still, Egypt is hoping for improved ties with the U.S. under President Obama after the Bush administration called for reform by Mubarak and after years of strains over its human rights record. The Obama administration has already hinted it won't hinge its relationship with Egypt on human rights demands. (AP/Washington Post)
See also The Obama Administration and Implications for Freedom and Democracy in the Middle East - Scott Carpenter
The U.S. government can use Arab governments' insecurity regarding Iran as leverage to encourage real reform. This is particularly true for Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia - now engaged in the ideological fight of their lives with Iran and its reactionary allies. Only by establishing a new bargain with these regimes that stresses the need for them to respect internal civil and political rights, while forging a joint response to the reactionary threat, can the U.S. offer a true alternative to theocratic and minority rule. The writer, a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs from 2004 to 2007. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Why Spain Leads Europe in Anti-Jewish Views - Yoav Sivan
Spanish leaders learn of Middle East affairs through El Pais, the country's flagship newspaper. El Pais consistently refers to Tel Aviv [and not Jerusalem] as the capital of Israel. It is regularly filled with references comparing Israel to the Nazis. A cartoon published during the recent Gaza campaign depicted a figure saying, "Palestine belongs to the Palestinians, not the Israelis. The Hebrew myths are false, and abuse of the weak is disgusting." To whom a Jewish man with a hooked nose responds, "We are the people chosen by the God we ourselves invented."
Even in minor stories unrelated to the conflict, El Pais displays unapologetic hatred for Israel. An illustration of the ostensibly oppressive encroachment by religious authorities on individual rights was the fact that Israeli hospitals separate cutlery for dairy and meat because of kashrut (Jewish dietary laws). A survey last spring by Washington's Pew Global Attitude Project found that 46% of Spaniards view Jews unfavorably - the highest proportion in Europe - due to the shallow conception of Israel perpetuated and aggravated by Spain's leading newspaper, and the general use in Spanish media of anti-Semitic images. (Ha'aretz)
Apartheid in Israel? - Reda Mansour
A few years ago I began an initiative at the Israeli Foreign Ministry aimed at opening a dialogue with Muslim communities in the West. When the first delegations of European and American Muslims started to arrive, they were amazed at the coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Israel. In Haifa, the Muslim delegations visited a major university with an Arab Muslim vice president and many Arab students. They went to markets and offices and observed Arabs and Jews peacefully going about their daily lives. They met some of the more than 100 Islamic family court judges and talked with the imams who provide religious services; both groups are paid by the Israeli government. In a regular Israeli parliament session, there are an average of 15 Arab members. The facts on the ground show nothing even remotely close to a racist system.
Before the first Palestinian uprising in 1987 more than 120,000 Palestinians worked in Israel. In every Palestinian household there was at least one person who worked in Israel. The workers entered the country freely and their standard of living was among the highest in the Middle East. Israel, like any other country, is not perfect. But apartheid? You must be joking. Palestinians need to understand that violent action will never yield the results they want and that serving as a useful distraction for the regime in Tehran will never bring prosperity. The writer, an Israeli Druze, is consul general of Israel to the southeastern U.S. (JTA)
Weekend Features

Israeli Soldiers Speak Out
The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has over 700,000 citizen soldiers and reservists who are expected to live up to the IDF's ethical standards. In any army, some soldiers violate the rules of combat. In the IDF, all alleged violations are investigated, and offenders are punished. Yet today, there is an attempt to defame the IDF through allegations that there were instances of misconduct during Israel's Gaza operation. The accusations are based on unverified hearsay, and are proving to be false. Many IDF soldiers feel a deep sense of injustice at how some are misrepresenting them and the IDF. We want to tell you, the public, about their personal experiences. Listen to their stories on this site. (Stand with Us)
Spectacular Mosaic Floor Restored in 1,500-Year-Old Synagogue in Israel
A 1,500-year-old mosaic, found in a synagogue from the Byzantine period (fifth and sixth centuries CE) at Ma'on-Nirim, near Kibbutz Nir Oz in the western Negev, is now open to the general public. The mosaic floor and the remains of the synagogue were discovered during road paving work in 1957. In 2006, the mosaic was transferred for treatment to the Conservation Laboratories in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, and has now been returned to its original location.
The decoration on the mosaic floor consists of a vine tendril that stems from an amphora (vase) to form a trellis of medallions that are adorned with scenes of everyday life from the vineyard and from wine production and with different animals. The images portrayed include a seven-branched candelabrum that stands on three legs shaped like lion's feet, and near them etrogim, a shofar and a lulav, and alongside the candelabrum - palm trees and lions, which are symbols of Judah. An Aramaic inscription is incorporated in the mosaic blessing all of the community, followed by a dedication to three individuals who donated generous contributions. The Ma'on synagogue is one of three synagogues in the western Negev and its floor is identical to the one in the synagogue in Gaza. (Israel Antiquities Authority)

Who Killed Annapolis? - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

As Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated, Annapolis is dead - and everyone knows it. Annapolis has become just another footnote in the 100-year history of Palestinian rejectionism. It died when Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qurei rejected Ehud Olmert's and Tzipi Livni's offer last year of virtually the entire West Bank (the Palestinians already have Gaza), plus tracts of the Negev to make up for strategic settlement blocs retained beyond the "green line." Had the Palestinians taken this astonishingly magnanimous deal, "Palestine" would have become the 22nd Muslim Arab state in the Middle East.
Lieberman pledged a total commitment to what is officially known as a "Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israel-Palestinian Conflict."
The Annapolis process was a stab at leapfrogging over the Roadmap because the Palestinians could not - or would not - fulfill their obligation to end the violence. And the international community preferred the illusion of momentum Annapolis provided. The alternative would have been to concede that even "moderate" Palestinians are not prepared to follow through on the hard work necessary to achieve a two-state solution.
The Roadmap stipulates: "A two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and are willing and able to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty, and through Israel's readiness to do what is necessary for a democratic Palestinian state to be established." What could be clearer?
Israel buried another victim of Palestinian terror, 16-year-old Shlomo Nativ, who was hacked to death on Thursday in Bat Ayin, southwest of Jerusalem. It is this kind of Palestinian brutality - combined with diplomatic obduracy - that keeps the Roadmap grounded.